Padwork is arguably the most important aspect of Muay Thai training because it is where everything you learn comes together. Padwork is as close to real-life fighting as one can get without stepping into the ring - testing your technique, offense, defense, timing, movement, conditioning and power against a moving target that can hit back.
Photo credit: Chinnarach Muay Thai, Koh Phangan
In a Muay Thai fight, the judges are looking for clean strikes delivered with power, and this is where padwork differs from sparring. In sparring, even heavy sparring, you are always holding back your strikes so that you do not injure your opponent. In padwork, you can let all your weapons go with full force, which helps not only with practicing your balance but also with conditioning your body to withstand the punishment of a fight (such as the clash of shin on shin).
At Chinnarach Muay Thai, we do 3 x 4 minute rounds in our group classes (sometimes 5 minute rounds depending on how busy a class is). Because Muay Thai rounds are 3 minutes long, we add on the extra minutes to help with conditioning by getting students and fighters used to training longer rounds.
Each trainer (kru) has their own style of pad-holding. And they will often work on a specific style or area of technique during a class. A great example is this padwork session between teenage fighter Kukthong and Kru Billy, where they work on combining Muay Tae (kicker) and Muay Mat (puncher) styles.
Video credit: Chinnarach Muay Thai, Koh Phangan